Method Second

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I love productivity methods. “Getting Things Done” inspired me to become more organized, and I developed my time-management methods using Agile. I strongly encourage people to find productivity systems and build their owns.

I also recommend you change them up when they don’t work.

This is something people forget a lot when talking about personal productivity. There’s always advice about what to do, how to do it, but never when to stop doing it. When in all that creative advice is that gentle talk and metaphorical hand on the shoulder where someone says “by the way, here’s where you stop listening to me.”

I’ve encountered this in my own life – obviously. Lately, I’ve had to resort my priorities, change my methods, and adapt to new plans and new challenges. I’ve had to reshuffle how I work, from my regular cadence to how I prioritize and track work. As it’s in progress, I’ll discuss this once my methods settle.

But what I do want to discuss is why you should look at your methods and planning techniques, at all your charts and reviews, and learn when to stop doing them.

And when do you stop doing them and try something else? Simple. You change up whatever your productive methods are when following the methods gets in the way of getting things done. The goal of your processes is to get your projects completed, and when however you do that work gets in the way, then throw it out.

Here’s how your current seemingly-brilliant methods can get in the way.

  • They don’t fit your lifestyle. Maybe your lifestyle requires more adaptability, and you need less strict methods. Perhaps your life is more orderly, so less stringent methods aren’t as optimal.
  • You’ve internalized your methods. I’ve found this happens a lot in Agile methods – you internalize so many principles and ways to do things, planning them out may get in the way.
  • Your priorities have changed. That nicely organized system you had to get things done was for a different you. Now you’re focusing on different issues, and your old methods don’t apply. Sticking with your earlier priorities will interfere with your current needs.
  • Your psychological needs changed. Productive methods provide us comfort, leverage our advantages, and make up for our flaws. Those change and evolve, and your processes will need to as well – if they don’t, there’s going to be a lot of internal stress.
  • You’ve learned new tools. There are productivity tools out there, software to methods of using notecards, and so on. Once you find a new one out, why not try to use it?

Productivity methods are essential to getting things done. But there are times to switch them up because your needs changed, you changed, and because there are better methods. Let yourself do it.

The methods don’t matter – what matters is getting things done. When there are reasons to change, do it. The methods are just a way to get where you want to go.

Steven Savage